The Data Scientist uses Storytelling

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Image from SAS

‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’ -Margaret Mead

The quote above inspires me today as I conclude a four-part mini-series on the Anatomy of a Data Scientist by looking at one of the soft skills needed to be successful – communication.

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Rudyard Kipling once said that ‘If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.’ I would add that for data science and analysis to have a lasting impact, it should be explained with stories. Organizations and those teaching data science would be more successful if they understand that people are more likely to remember and act on data if it is presented clearly. I’ve noticed that those that have technical skills sometimes lack the ability to communicate what they’ve found to a non-technical audience. Those that are skilled data storytellers are the ones you can see on Ted Talks or presenting at major conferences or running businesses.

A 2013 Harvard Business Review article says that data is worthless if you don’t communicate it.  I think that overstates the relationship between data and communication but it makes a fair point. Data scientists and not just data managers should go through the process of practicing how to describe the technical to a wide variety of audiences. Public speaking and storytelling don’t usually come naturally to the analytical mind so we have to be intentional about stepping outside our comfort zones as ‘nerds’ and come front and center stage to communicate.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog series on an Anatomy of a Data Scientist. Let me know if there are things I’ve left out or things you’d like to discuss further. Next week I’ll ‘practice what I preach’ and be featuring a short video on why I’m choosing Data Science.

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